Lewa Safari Marathon Cancelled and Safaricom’s Response to COVID-19

The 2020 edition of the Lewa Safari Marathon has been cancelled as Kenya and the rest of the world grapples with the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s edition, powered by Huawei and Safaricom PLC was slated for 27th June 2020 allowing participants from all over the globe to compete whilst running through one of Africa’s most breath-taking conservancies.

“Hosting a race in a wildlife conservancy comes with a unique set of challenges. For the past 20 years, we have worked to mitigate these challenges and offer all 1400 of our annual runners what we hope is an optimum running experience. Having all of you at Lewa has always been the highlight of our year. Despite our great willingness to push on, having weighed all factors, we have come to the very difficult decision to cancel this year’s race,” said the CEO of Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Mr. Mike Watson.

On March 25, the Kenyan Government announced 28 cases of COVID19 within the country and banned all international flights effective 25 March.

A significant number of the marathoners, whose contributions are key to the success of the event, are overseas runners from the UK and the USA. In light of the new travel restrictions and severity of situation, they will be unable to participate.

The Government has also issued a public declaration advising Kenyans to avoid all non- essential public gatherings.

“While we’re sure all efforts are being made by the Kenyan government to contain the spread of the virus, it is paramount we heed the presidential directive to avoid all non-essential public gatherings and play our part in flattening the curve until all of this is behind us,” Mr. Watson added.

Mr. Charlie Mayhew Tusk CEO shared, “The importance of the Lewa Safari Marathon to Tusk’s operations in Kenya cannot be overstated. It is our flagship fundraising initiative and undoubtedly a highlight of the Tusk calendar for the hundreds of international runners we host every year at the event. This event regularly generates over $500,000 (KES 50,000,000) for numerous conservation, education and community projects across Kenya, so its cancellation this year is a massive blow. However, the safety of runners, supporters and local communities amid this global crisis is paramount. We will return next year, stronger than ever, and meanwhile we are committed to continue supporting our partner projects as best we can,”

“The marathon is not just a running experience, it is a force for good. It not only helps us protect Kenya’s wildlife, but it brings communities together and transforms lives. The extraordinary sums generated go directly toward our conservation efforts on the ground. It is an event like no other.”

Additionally, holding such a highly competitive event to its usual standards may impose a financial strain on the event’s co-sponsors who in this tough business climate will struggle to support the event as they have done before.

The event organisers will offer the participants the chance to defer their entries, as well as claim full or partial refunds. The cancellation policy can be accessed in full here: https://www.lewasafarimarathon.co.ke/cancellation-policy/. Participants can contact marathon@lewa.org or call +254 717 117 223 in case of any further questions.

For the past twenty years, the marathon, held on Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, co-organised by Tusk and title sponsored by Safaricom PLC has become a permanent fixture in Kenya’s sporting calendar, with 1,400 local and international runners actively participating in what has been termed one of the most challenging and exciting races globally. Runners of all abilities have taken part – from elite professionals like Marathon World Record Holder Eliud Kipchoge to amateur runners and walkers.

Over and above its identity as a sporting event, the marathon has also been a vehicle for the advancement of education, healthcare and conservation efforts in Kenya, raising close to KES 800,000,000 for these causes since the year 2000.

Meanwhile, this is how Safaricom is supporting Kenya for COVID-19:


  1. Following the request by the government to explore ways of deepening mobile money usage to reduce the risk of spreading the virus through the physical handling of cash. We have zero rated all person-to-person transactions below Ksh1,000. M-PESA users are now be able to send any amount below Ksh1,000 for free over the next 90 (ninety) days.
  2. This represents 75% of all M-PESA transactions.
  3. To support the small and micro business enterprises (SMEs), CBK approved the increase of daily M-PESA transaction limits from the current Ksh70,000 to Ksh150,000.
  4. Kenyans are now able to transact up to Ksh300,000 up from the current limit of Ksh140,000, and hold up to Ksh300,000 in their M-PESA wallets.
  5. We have also zero rated all charges for payments made to all hospitals and dispensaries across the country for a period of ninety days.

Home Fibre

  1. To support the working from home request by the President, we have doubled the bandwidth offered to our Home Fibre customers at no extra costs to customers for a period of ninety days.


Call Centre Support – 719

  1. Safaricom is also working with the Government by providing a Call Centre and integrating a toll-free line 719 which has been set up by the National Emergency Response Committee on Coronavirus to support Kenyans in understanding how to prevent and manage suspected cases.
  2. We have also interconnected other networks to ensure that their subscribers can access the Call Centre.
  3. All calls to 719 are free. Over 300 customer care executives trained and handling line 719.

Line 719 output

    1. IVR average hits – average of 70,000 daily calls
    2. IVR Self-service usage – 67,000 daily users
    3. USSD usage – average of 900,000 daily users. Thursday 19th peaked at 2.1 Million users

  1. Safaricom Foundation – Purchase and donation of four thermal cameras for Ministry of Health that will help with screening at various border entry points.